Friday, August 11, 2017

Whole Lotta Spinnin' Goin' On: Peacock Mecate I

When I started this mecate I had no idea it would take as long as it did!  I was trying to build a nice Bosal Hackamore to start off the next phase of my career.  This Peacock Hackamore, as mentioned on my FB, was inspired by Maine's lakes and forests and then dovetailed into BreyerFest's India theme.  Hackamores are truly one of my favorite pieces to make; it should have been easy.  But the mecate took twice as many hours as my last one!  Yeeks!  This post will cover the first half of the making of the mecate. There will be a 2nd post on the last half, then a 3rd covering the finished piece.

It's been 4 years since I made a mecate like this.  2015 saw the replication of Fancy's lost Hackamore, but that one copied 10-years-old techniques.  My last spun mecate was made in 2013 (Moisan's).
The green color is another reason this one was slow.  I didn't have a nice emerald green thread of the gauge I normally use for these mecates.  (Heck, no green of any shade!)  With what can only be perfectionism, I chose to make every inch of green thread handspun from Gutermann's very small gauge.  As it happened the ratio of Gutermann's to what I was after was 9 to 1.  Sound familiar...?

I have posted other blogs on making mecates:  micro order mecate,   Fancy's Part I  and  Part II.  But this time there was no braided-thread strand and no braided ring.  Instead of 3 parts, this mecate uses 6.  As the title explains, most of the time was sunk into spinning!!  If you don't like spinning thread, this probably isn't the tack project for you...
Where to begin?
With a written battle plan.
I have discovered that drawing the strands in long U-shapes helps me immensely in design and construction.  The finished strands are folded over the popper (quirt) and then spun together, with the ends making the tassel knot core.  This approach saves one the trouble of fastening the popper (quirt) to the finished rope -- and the mecate looks so much more realistic.  In general tackmakers seem to be a very graphically-oriented species.  I need to see my mecate designs, especially if I'm doing a color-change one. 
I started with the longest-thread strands, the 'fleck' or checkered ones:  80 inches of tiny hand-quilting brown and white.  As it happened 80 inches was too long; it should have been 75 or so.
The tamales (end bundles) are bound together with bread twists.  Plastic ones that come with electronics make the best twists.
This really is the slowest part.  Since the ply of the threads is to the right, the spin is to the left.
I began using a magnifier lamp my mother-in-law gave me.  Keep those hands clean!
This somewhat out-of-focus shot shows the whole setup.  I have to constantly keep the two colors from tangling.  It is mind-numbing work, but peaceful.  I always listen to music when I make tack.  I'm a ragtimer as well as a public-radio supporter.  I suppose I could go on and on about which music is in what tack, but...
The first couple wraps around the braiding anchor base are shown.  The braiding hook holds the finished thread against my pulling.
Accumulating this much can take days.
This is what the end of the first step looks like.  (Chiromancers, have at me.) 
Next, the thread is doubled over and spun again, making the tiny 'checkered strand.'
There is something magic about this step.  I can't explain it.  I only know that if I hold and spin the white dashes in a pattern that looks like a slanty T at the point of intersection, the two strands come together in a satisfying twist.  The twist must be neither too tight (short dashes, kinking) nor too loose (long dashes).  Of course there are problems, and this mecate in particular gave me all kinds of trouble!  Instead of brown-white-brown-white I'd get brown-brown-white-white.  This happened so often I gave up and accepted a percentage of it.  (It can be seen in the finished mecate close-ups.)  But still this process fascinates me.

Spinning the checkered strand took so long that I stopped in the middle and did other colors and other parts, like the popper.  Seen below, the blue is done, the green nearly so and the white not at all.  The tiny blue clip is holding my place in the checkered strand.
Slogging on:  more green.  Three times three equals nine.  Plus you have to allow for shrinkage.
 Getting there.
Here's the popper.  I made a new pattern for it, based on three previous patterns.
The next installation will cover the final spinning, when the entire mecate comes together.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I would love a blog post on the music you listen to while you work! Does the selected music influence how/what you work on? Or you choose particular music styles for different kinds of tack? Etc.?

  3. Lynn you always ask the best questions! Basically I find classical music to be the best: inexhaustable, non-distracting. Next most often I listen to ragtime piano, a personal specialty, uplifting and energetic; third, to movies, which while satisfying is sometimes distracting. It's highly subjective and depends on mood and current favorites.